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It feels like ancient history now, but back long ago (the nineties) there was an online fashion retailer called Boo.com. Boo crashed and burned in one of the most spectacular disasters of the original dot com boom – spending hundreds of millions of dollars in 18 months trying to create the ideal online shopping experience.
Boo was never going to work. They were too far ahead of the way that customers experience in fashion retail. Nobody had a smart phone, then, nobody could shop using a mobile device, and very few people had broadband. Most of us were still using modems, so imagine trying to download a rotating 3D image of a shoe?
You can read the Boo story in a very interesting book called Boo Hoo, but the reason I’m thinking back to this customer experience disaster is that Amazon is about to tear up the rulebook on how people buy clothes.
Their new service Amazon Prime Wardrobe allows customers to order any clothes, keep them for a week to try them on, and then return any items they don’t want completely free. Regular retailers already struggling to implement complex omni-channel systems will be horrified to hear that Amazon is about to change the rules of retail once again.
Now, I assume that by ‘trying on’ Amazon assumes that the customer will literally just try the clothes, look in a mirror, and send that back if not required, but is it just me who thinks that it could also be possible to order an entirely new wardrobe for a wedding which can all be returned after the party is over?
Seriously though, this initiative could redefine clothes shopping. Busy people find it difficult to spend time shopping in various stores, so Amazon can bring everything together and make it easy to order different sizes to see which fits best.
I think the supply chain logistics will be formidable. Handling parcels do have a real cost even if the customer is not being openly charged for delivery. It’s no surprise that many analysts believe that Amazon will drop parcel companies like UPS and will just create their own parcel delivery company. It would tie the supply chain more tightly to the company, but could that really be ramped up quickly enough on a global basis?
It’s also interesting to see how these innovations are also reinforcing the Prime loyalty system. When Prime was originally launched it was just an unlimited package fee – you pay a fixed price per month to get free delivery from Amazon. Now it’s possibly the most successful customer loyalty scheme anywhere in the world and with new services being applied only to Prime customers, it is only likely to grow further.
With services like Prime Wardrobe those old days of Boo.com feel very long ago indeed. What do you think about the ideas Amazon is presenting for fashion retail and how it changes the customer experience? Leave a comment here or get in touch directly via LinkedIn.